calm alpine lake at sylvan lake state park outside of eagle, colorado

We call Eagle, Colorado home. And, it is home to Sylvan Lake State Park, a small-but-mighty Colorado state park. A small, pristine alpine lake is the centerpiece of the park. People come from all over the state to fish, paddle board and to just unplug. There is no cell phone service in this pocket of the mountains of Colorado. Just a pristine lake and beautiful White River National Forest land.

Sylvan Lake State Park is one of 44 state parks in Colorado. Established in 1987, it has been around longer than I have lived in the area. There is a hiking loop around the lake that is approximately a mile-and-a-half long. While the lake itself is fairly small at 42 acres, the park itself is mid-sized at about 1500 acres. There are plenty trails to explore further out, not just at the lake. The park sits at an elevation of 8.500 feet above sea level.

Campsites and cabins are available to book at the edge of the lake. And yurts, located further out, are also available to reserve. This is a popular destination for fishing and SUPing.

The fee to enter the park in 2023 is $10 per vehicle or $4 per person. Colorado State Park passes are available for $80 affixed or $120 hang tag. This is discounted to $70 for aged 64 plus. But the best deal for someone who with visit a state park more than three times is the $29 Keep Colorado Wild Pass that you buy when you renew your auto registration.

Panoramic view of Sylvan Lake from the dock.

For many years, I would pass by the sign and at my interstate exit and be reminded that I hadn’t yet visited. That changed a few years back when I got into paddle boarding. One Mother’s Day I bought myself a paddle board. I love being on the water, though not always in it. I just find water so peaceful.

At that point I had only been to Sylvan Lake State Park in the winter. On New Year’s Day, they often host an event to kick off the new year with a hike around the snowy lake. But now that I have my paddle board, the park has become a regular summer day destination for us as it is for many other locals. But it is not just a popular destination for locals. Visitors come from around the state and further to immerse themselves in nature.

Things to Do at Sylvan Lake State Park

View of Sylvan Lake from one of the camper cabins.

Camp

There are 44 camp sites available to reserve at Sylan Lake State Park. These all can be used with RVs, trailers or just tents. There are no hook ups. But water and vault toilets are available, as well as coin showers and flush toilets at the camper services building during the summer.

One of these campsites is a group site, for up to 60 people.

Also, there are rustic cabins and yurts available to rent. There’s one large cabin with kitchen, shower and toilet. And, there are 8 camper cabins with heat and beds. In addition 3 yurts located further from the lake are available to rent.

The cabins, yurts and campsites all book up far in advance. I’ve never been able to secure one until this summer when I discovered that there are sometimes last minute cancellations.

Camping at Sylvan Lake enables you to truly experience the peace of the place. When the day use visitors leave and silence overtakes the park, the stars come out. I have never seen stars so bright as I did here. The Milky Way stood out like I’d never seen before.

Book your campsite or cabin reservations here. But do it far in advance, or get lucky last minute.

Campsites for the summer of 2023 are $28 per night for a basic campsite, $90 per night for a camper cabin or yurt. The large campsite is $160 per night and the large cabin is $190 per night. All plus tax.

Paddle boarding is perhaps the most popular activity at Sylvan Lake.

Water Sports

There is no swimming allowed in Sylvan Lake. But you can certainly be in the water. The lake is popular with paddle boarders, fishing fans and even rafters.

Non-motorized boats or boats with electric trolling motors are the only allowed. This keeps the waters calm for the paddle boarders and fishermen.

If you don’t have your own boat or SUP, don’t despair. The park has a limited number of canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards available to rent during the summer.

Sylvan Lake is stocked with Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout, making it a popular spot for fishermen.

sunset at Sylvan Lake State Park
The park is busy during the day. But at sunset quiets when the only people are those spending the night camping.

Picnicking

There are many picnic tables near the edge of the lake. These do fill up and most don’t have a lot of shade. People bring out their own tents for shade, and camping chairs to be able to comfortably picnic at the edge of the lake.

Hiking and Biking

There’s a great variety of hiking trails with the most popular and shortest being the mile-and-a-half trail around the lake. Others lead away from people and into the quiet of national forest land.

Mountain biking is allowed on the trail around the lake. But on my many visits to the lake, I can’t recall seeing anyone biking around the lake.

Geo Caching or Metal Detecting

There is geocaching available. But our son has enjoyed bringing his metal detector out to see what he can find. Once it was someone’s keys that they dropped and couldn’t locate.

A New Year’s Day hike around Sylvan Lake State Park is an annual tradition for many locals.

Winter Activities

Though not as popular in the winter, Sylvan Lake State Park does enjoy visitors in the winter also. People come to camp in one of the camper cabins, ice fish, sled, snowshoe and more. A New Year’s Day hike around the lake is a tradition for many locals.

Have you visited Sylvan Lake State Park? Is it in your future plans? What else would you like to know? Tell us in the comments below!

Sylvan Lake State Park: Not-So-Hidden Gem

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

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